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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Ohio

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 25, 2019

Guatemalan extradited to Columbus in connection to alleged Colombia-to-America cocaine conspiracy

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A Guatemalan man was extradited to the United States in connection to a narcotics case in the Southern District of Ohio.

 

Francisco Golon-Valenzuela, 40, was extradited from Panama and arrived at John Glenn International Airport late yesterday. He is scheduled to appear before United States Magistrate Judge Chelsey M. Vascura at 1:30 pm today.

 

Benjamin C. Glassman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Keith Martin, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Ohio State Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Richard S. Fambro announced the charges.

 

Golon-Valenzuela, also known as “El Toro,” was indicted in September 2018 and his charges were unsealed today. Specifically, Golon-Valenzuela is charged with conspiring to distribute at least five kilograms or more of cocaine on the high seas, a federal crime punishable by 10 years up to life in prison.

 

According to the indictment, Golon-Valenzuela conspired with others to ship thousands of kilograms of cocaine from Colombia, via sea and land, through Central America and Mexico to the United States.

 

The indictment details that as part of the conspiracy individuals would use “load” coordinators to assist with logistics of cocaine shipments, locate drivers and boat operators for narcotic-laden vehicles and vessels, and secure shared investments from multiple co-conspirators in specific cocaine shipments.

 

Fishermen and other commercial maritime laborers were allegedly recruited by conspirators to transport cocaine and refueling vessels.

 

Conspirators allegedly paid a “tax” or “fee” to send cocaine through areas controlled by a different drug trafficking organization or cartel.

 

Members of the conspiracy allegedly shared information on the activities and locations of law enforcement and military personnel assigned to interdict narcotics shipments. It is alleged co-conspirators also sheltered individuals who were at risk of extradition to other countries.

 

Low-level co-conspirators would allegedly take responsibility for an entire load of seized cocaine in order to free higher-level members.

 

Cocaine shipments seized in this case thus far include:

  • 880 kilograms of cocaine seized by the United States Coast Guard near the Guatemalan/Mexico border on May 19, 2016;
  • 720 kilograms of cocaine seized by the United States Coast Guard northwest of the Galapagos Islands on Aug. 18, 2017; and
  • 34 kilograms of cocaine seized by the Guatemalan Policia National Civil in San Marcos, Guatemala on or about Nov. 26, 2017.

Four defendants were transported to Ohio for prosecution in September 2017, following the 720 kilogram seizure near the Galapagos Islands. That seizure alone included more than 1,584 pounds of cocaine, equaling an approximate street value of $25 million.

 

This investigation remains ongoing.

 

U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the investigation of this case by the DEA and Ohio State Highway Patrol, and Assistant United States Attorneys David M. DeVillers and Jonathan J.C. Grey, who are prosecuting the case. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs of the Department’s Criminal Division handled the extradition in this matter.

 

An indictment merely contains allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.

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Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Contact: 
jennifer.thornton@usdoj.gov
Updated October 25, 2019